64-BIT TECHNOLOGY: Taking personal computing to the next level

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Sixty-four-bit architecture has long been common in servers, while desktop users have had to be content with the limitations of 32-bit processors. However, all this will soon change as recent developments mean that server-like architecture can now be introduced to standalone PCs.

That’s the vision of giant chipmaker Intel, which is working to make desktop PCs more powerful than before.

“In the first quarter of this year, you will see more powerful desktop PCs operating under a 64-bit-architecture environment,” said Intel Microelectronics (Thailand) country manager Accharas Ouysinprasert.

Accharas said Intel was planning to launch a new desktop platform that would enhance the performance of existing 32-bit-architecture systems by allowing computer users to perform computing tasks under a 64-bit environment.

The new platform will feature what Intel calls Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) to allow desktop PCs to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

Accharas said the new platform would become the first choice of those who want to work-with feature-rich multimedia and high-resolution graphic applications for a much lower cost, instead of using high-price graphic workstations.

As EM64T allows users to choose between 32-bit and 64-bit applications, users can run their existing applications in a 32-bit environment, but can upgrade to run 64-bit applications when they need more computing power.

Intel plans to work with software developers to launch more 64-bit applications and convert existing 32-bit applications to support the platform.

To complement the 64-bit technology, new desktop platforms will feature power management technology, similar to that currently used in laptop computers. The technology will allow the processing speed of CPUs to be automatically adjusted according to the application being run. This means that if the application requires more computing power, the system will provide high-speed processing. But if the application requires less power, the CPU’s processing speed will be reduced.

Accharas said this would help computers save energy and lead to better resource utilisation.

To enhance desktop PC capabilities, the company will also include Active Management Technology to allow users to make remote diagnosis through a network, as well as security technology to protect against virus attacks and spyware.

“We believe the platform will be a starting point for desktop PCs to move towards 64-bit technology,” Accharas said.

The 64-bit technology is not the only platform through which Intel plans to raise PC performance. The company also plans to launch what it calls dual-core platforms in the second half of this year, featuring two full-execution cores in a single processor.

Intel currently uses a technology called Hyperthreading, which allows a single core processor to perform two tasks simultaneously by utilising existing processing resources.

But dual-core technology, Accharas said, uses processors with two cores that can each perform a computing task simultaneously for true parallel execution.

Dual core technology is expected to overcome development limitations currently facing single-core processors. Intel believes that dual-core technology will help increase chip speed and performance by up to 10 times over the next four years.

“Between 2000 and 2004, using chip development based on the single-core concept, we were able to improve chip performance three times. Since then we have found there are limits to how much the performance of a single chip can be improved, so the development of dual core technology is the answer,” Accharas said.

Dual core chips will improve multitasking performance, making it ideal for home digital applications. Imagine recording a television programme using your computer system, while using the same computer to simultaneously play a DVD movie and send the signal to your television in another room. You could also play MP3 audio files in your living room at the same time – all via a single PC.

Looking beyond dual core, Intel said hardware development would move to multi-core technology, featuring processors made up of at least four cores, with the promise of even more powerful computers.

Published on January 24, 2005

Pongpen Sutharoj

The Nation

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